She started out singing in Chicago bars. Then, barely out of high school, Lucy Kaplansky took off for New York City. There she found a fertile community of songwriters and performers - Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, Bill Morrissey, Cliff Eberhardt, and others - where she fit right in. With a beautiful flair for harmony, Lucy was everyone’s favorite singing partner, but most often she found herself singing as a duo with Shawn Colvin. People envisioned big things for them; in fact, The New York Times said it was “easy to predict stardom for her.” But then Lucy dropped it all.
Convinced that her calling was in another direction, Lucy left the musical fast track to pursue a doctorate in Psychology. Upon completing her degree, Dr. Kaplansky took a job at a New York hospital working with chronically mentally ill adults, and also started a private practice. Yet she continued to sing. Lucy was often pulled back into the studio by her friends, who now had contracts with record labels (and wanted her to sing on their albums). She harmonized on Colvin’s Grammy-winning Steady On, on Nanci Griffith’s Lone Star State of Mind and Little Love Affairs, and on four of John Gorka’s albums. She also landed soundtrack credits, singing with Suzanne Vega on Pretty in Pink and with Griffith on The Firm, and several commercial credits as well - including “The Heartbeat of America” for Chevrolet.
Itching to produce a record, Shawn Colvin hooked up with Lucy, her ex-singing partner. They went into the studio, and it all came together. When Lucy’s solo tapes got into the hands of Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records, he was blown away. Suddenly, Lucy was back in the music business. She signed with Red House and started playing gigs. Red House released The Tide in 1994 to rave reviews, and within six months Lucy signed with a major booking agency - Fleming Tamulevich & Associates - and began touring so much it required leaving her two psychologist positions behind.
Lucy’s second album, Flesh and Bone (1996), was produced by Anton Sanko (producer of Suzanne Vega’s Days of Open Hand), and it clearly showed a performer and songwriter stepping into her own. Some of Lucy’s favorite singing partners joined her in the studio, including Jennifer Kimball (formerly of The Story), Richard Shindell, and John Gorka. Where The Tide had showcased Lucy’s formidable interpretive skills, Flesh and Bone emphasized her development as a gifted songsmith. The album is graced with eight absorbing original songs, as well as four sharp covers.
Both The Tide and Flesh and Bone received significant radio airplay, and turned in impressive appearances on the Gavin Report’s Americana and A3 charts (reaching the Top Ten and Top 20 respectively), as well as earning Honorable Mention Indie Awards from the Association for Independent Music (AFIM). She was also featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,” Mountain Stage, West Coast Live, Acoustic Cafe, and Vin Scelsa’s “Idiot’s Delight.” Extensive touring in the U.S. and Europe have helped establish a far-reaching fan base. Lucy also contributed her story to a unique book, SOLO: Women Singer-Songwriters in Their Own Words, which includes some of the best known women on the music scene today: Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and others. She is also featured in Lipshtick, a collection of essays by NPR commentator Gwen Macsai, which was published in the fall of 1999.
Lucy’s voice continues to remain in high demand by her peers, and she can be heard on recently-released albums by Nanci Griffith and John Gorka. Another recent project combined the talents of Lucy, Dar Williams and Richard Shindell into a “folk supergroup” of sorts. Calling themselves Cry Cry Cry, the three chose to celebrate the amazing revitalization in contemporary songwriting, and recorded some of their favorite songs written by other artists. The resulting album, Cry Cry Cry (which The New Yorker dubbed “a collection of lovely harmonizing and pure emotion,” and to which Entertainment Weekly gave an “A” rating), has met with astonishing success in stores and on radio. A national tour of sold-out concerts by the trio has served to introduce Lucy’s luminous voice to a new expanse of eager listeners.
Since the release of Ten year Night Lucy has toured extensively in Ireland and the UK. This album is her most successful record to date and received the AFIM award (Association For Independent Music) for Best Pop Album in 1999. Every Single Day, features Lucy’s sumptuous voice on seven original tracks (co-written with her husband Rick Litvin and Duke Levine) and four cover songs. The players (Larry Campbell, Zev Katz, Jon Herington, Duke Levine and Ben Wittman) bring a wide array of talent and inspiration, and the rich harmonies of John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Buddy Miller and Jennifer Kimball combine with Lucy’s voice to produce a unique and amazing vocal synthesis. Voices and instruments coalesce exquisitely into a perfect blend of folk-pop and alt-country. The performance is riveting: the nuance, power and texture in her voice are matched by the imagery and emotion of her lyrics and melodies. She gets to the heart of a song, touching listeners and leaving them wanting more.
Over the Hills (2007) is the most personal recording to date by New York City singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky and certainly the most accomplished and realized album in her remarkable catalog. Rediscovering her musical roots, Lucy returns to a more acoustic sound that is influenced by the music she first fell in love with - folk and classic country.
The release contains a stunning range of material, from stories about family - those that have gone before and follow after, of lives lived and roads traveled - to a compelling collection of classic songs by other writers, performed with Lucy’s distinctive interpretive sensibility. Over the Hills is Lucy’s story and her reflection upon her times, connecting to universal themes of love, joy, loss and dreams for the future.
With two major losses in her life - her father Irving Kaplansky and mentor Red House president Bob Feldman - Lucy (along with co-writer/husband Richard Litvin) was inspired to write title track “Over the Hills.” Encompassing the themes of the album, it reflects upon the connections between generations and the journey we all make beyond the world of our parents. From the album’s opening song “Manhattan Moon” about her joy in motherhood to “Today’s the Day” about saying goodbye to her dying father, Lucy’s new songs are utterly personal and deeply moving.
Produced by Ben Wittman (Roseanne Cash, Paul Simon), Over the Hills features a world class band of Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan Band, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris), Jon Herington (Steely Dan), Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter), and noted jazz bassist Stephan Crump. Lucy is also joined by a parade of friends, who lend their vocal harmonies - Eliza Gilkyson, Buddy Miller, Richard Shindell and Jonathan Brooke. From the New York skyline to the hills beyond, Over the Hills is pure Americana, wonderfully raw and rich with heartache and hope.
Lucy Kaplansky is a top-tier songwriter and highly acclaimed performer whose seventh album on Red House Records, Reunion (2012) is an eloquent masterpiece. Mixing vibrant melodies with Americana/folk rhythms, the record explores family history and where we come from with pop and country-tinged hooks that have come to define Lucy s timeless sound.
The title song, “Reunion,” celebrates Lucy s pioneering immigrant grandmother and her journey from Poland to Toronto, where the matriarch and business woman founded the Health Bread Bakery chain in the early 20th century. Depicted on the album cover in a painting by noted political cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky (one of the original bakery workers and father to Lovin’ Spoonful’s Zal Yanovsky), the bakery was the center of the Kaplansky family’s life.
Like the title track, each song on Reunion tells its own unique story. Lucy and co-writer Richard Litvin connect us to our common humanity through songs of family, origins, loss and discovery - from watching parents pass on (“I’ll See You Again and Sleep Well”), to witnessing a daughter blossom (“Mother’s Day”), to chronicling the journey of an abandoned child refugee (the radio-friendly “Scavenger”). These poignant originals are woven with unique covers of Eliza Gilkyson, Woody Guthrie, Amy Correia and The Beatles. Together these tracks create a tapestry that is at turns deeply moving, joyful, meditative and rollicking, Reunion is the album that fans have been waiting for.